Drawing hands

Maurits Cornelis Escher • Graphics, 1948, 28.2×33.2 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Graphics
Subject and objects: Allegorical scene
Style of art: Surrealism
Technique: Lithography
Date of creation: 1948
Size: 28.2×33.2 cm
Artwork in selections: 17 selections

Description of the artwork «Drawing hands»

When it comes to the art of Maurits Escher, the first association in a person who is acquainted with contemporary art is a painting that is called Drawing Hands. This lithograph became the hallmark of the artist, who created many amazing images in the style of imp-art (“impossible art” — the imaging of spatial objects and figures that violate the laws of geometry). We invite you to familiarize yourself with the description of the Drawing Hands painting was which was created in 1948 by Maurits Escher.

On a small sheet of paper, which serves as a kind of canvas, that is primed with grey “noise”, the viewer sees an unusual image. A white sheet is attached to the “canvas” with buttons, its edges are slightly curved, they cast a shadow, which makes this sheet very realistic. From the right and left edges of the sheet, the outlines of the shirt cuffs appear, which are fastened with a rectangular cufflink. The cuffs are drawn with a few light strokes so that it is clearly visible that this is nothing more than a drawing. And then the real magic begins...

Wrists emerge from each painted cuff in Maurits Escher’s Drawing Hands. At first, they are drawn as a thin, barely visible outline, but then they materialize and become voluminous: the artist carefully drew the veins under the skin, the folds of the fingers, the play of light and shadow. The hands go beyond the boundaries of the white sheet and live their own lives: each of them holds a pencil, and one hand draws the other, being at the same time an image created by its counterpart.

On closer examination, you can see that the Drawing Hands painting by Maurits Escher is not a mirror image of the same drawing, as it might seem at first glance. We see one hand from the side of the pencil and can see the cufflink on the shirt cuff, but the only visible fingers are the thumb and forefinger. The second hand is depicted in such a way that it closes the cuff that is “drawn” by it, leaving us room for imagination: what is there — a cufflink or a button? The pencil is actually hidden by the brush: we can only see its sharpened tip and upper part. Escher drew this hand from the opposite angle, depicting the four fingers visible to the viewer in detail.

Art critics have many questions about this work, the answers to which will hardly ever be received. What did the artist want to say when drawing this recursion? Did it appear as a result of his reflections on the role of God and man in creating each other? Or, perhaps, the idea of this drawing came to Escher after his acquaintance with the famous pencil sketch by da Vinci, which depicted two female hands — just as alive and real?

The connoisseurs of the Dutch graphic genius are still discussing and trying to find the truth in disputes. Meanwhile, the Drawing Hands painting by Maurits Escher takes its place in the exposition of the Escher Museum in The Hague, where 130 of his works are kept, and it continues to excite collectors with its inaccessibility. In 2001, this work received an approximate estimated value of 45—55 thousand dollars from the Christie’s auction house, but it was not put up for auction.